"Small businesses get hit with all kinds of opportunities to buy lists of prospects. But most experts agree that this is almost always a bad idea. These are typically generated from big data sets and of questionable quality. Content marketer Corey Wainwright at HubSpot says that people found through this medium don’t actually know you and calls it a “dirty” way to acquire new contacts. The FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act is also designed to protect consumers from unsolicited emails, meaning that it’s technically illegal to buy an email list, social/digital marketing expert Rebecca Kowalewicz writes. Even though you’re getting a large list of prospects, the number of legitimate leads is often miniscule once you filter through everything. On top of that, it’s a good way to annoy people and can potentially diminish your brand reputation. But for independent agents without access to good local data, it can be hard to identify the 5,000 or 10,000 people living nearby who might be interested in an insurance policy. So how do you find leads without buying a prospects list? Here are some of the more potent techniques.
Referral marketing statistics are compelling, Amity Kapadia at referral marketing software company Ambassador writes. A large majority of Americans (82 percent) seek out recommendations from friends and family before buying. It works because people naturally trust the input of those they’re closest to. And this is certainly something that independent agents can use to their advantage. If you already have a list of satisfied customers, there’s a good chance that you could tap into that list and get some valuable referrals. This could involve something as simple as reaching out via email or telephone. Ideally, you’ll do this immediately after you’ve helped a customer and provided them with value, insurance marketing specialist John F. Carroll says. That’s when they’re most receptive, and the odds of them referring a friend, family member or colleague increase. Or it could be something more sophisticated where you create a referral marketing program. Companies with a formal referral program experience 86 percent more revenue growth, yet only 30 percent of companies have one in place, the team at customer referral program software company, Referral SaaSquatch writes. That means putting the effort into a referral program can be well worth your time and give you a distinct advantage over your competitors. When it comes to getting set up, growth marketer and Voila Norbert co-founder Sujan Patel says that a referral marketing program will typically include offering a monetary reward or providing some type of discount. Incentives should not eat up too much of your profit margins, Patel adds, and the more you can personalize the offer, the better conversion rates you’ll see.
Develop Gated Content...
Corey Wainwright also mentions the concept of creating “gated content assets,” which include material such as ebooks, webinars, videos and case studies. Independent agents can use gated content to generate leads by providing prospects with helpful information in exchange for their contact information, Marcus Johnson at landing page software provider, Instapage, writes. People receive valuable content, and you build your prospects list. It’s a win-win. And it’s a practice that’s more common than you may think. In fact, 80 percent of content marketing assets are gated, Ally Greer at Scoop.it explains. Here’s an example of how that would look in action. Someone lands on your website and is curious about buying flood insurance. They’re not necessarily ready to purchase right off the bat but simply want to learn more about it. You have a brief ebook that discusses the ins and outs of flood insurance. You discuss the likelihood of a homeowner encountering flood damage, how insurance costs, how to save on it, links to helpful resources, and so on. The person downloads your ebook and, in exchange, you get their email address and officially add them to your prospects list. For this technique to work, it’s necessary to understand what constitutes as a great lead magnet. Some of the key criteria is that it’s practical, solves a legitimate problem, is highly specific and is easy to read, entrepreneur and digital marketing expert Mary Fernandez writes. In other words, it needs to be compelling enough to motivate people to give you their contact information. The content should be in depth and helpful enough to position you as an authority. That will play a factor whether a reader ultimately decides to reach out to you later on to discuss their insurance needs. The interesting thing is that you don’t necessarily have to start this from scratch. Content marketer Patrick Whatman mentions in the Content Marketing Institute that you can create outstanding gated material by repurposing your existing content and formatting it into a more robust package. Do this correctly, and you’ll have a built-in system for continually generating new leads.
...and Effectively Promote It
Promotion is a critical component of gaining attention, Australian consulting agency Fubbi writes. These days, it’s not enough to just create great content — you need to promote the heck out of it. And this is certainly true when it comes to gated content. Building an SEO-optimized landing page is one of the best ways to go about this, Liz Bedor at Marketing Insider Group explains. This is where you create a landing page solely dedicated to promoting your gated content and designed to pull in organic search traffic. Specific strategies include targeting the right keywords (e.g. “flood insurance coverage”), using related keywords throughout the content (including multimedia) and linking to relevant internal pages within your site, digital marketer and SEO expert Aleh Barysevich writes. Bedor also recommends including calls-to-action (CTAs) to the content throughout your website, in your social media platforms and paid ad platforms like Google Adwords or Facebook ads. This is simply a link that leads to the download page, where a person puts in their email address. An example would be something like, “Free Download: Everything You Need to Know About Flood Insurance.” CTAs should also appear in your insurance blog wherever it makes sense. For instance, if you wrote a post about tips for saving on flood insurance, you would insert a CTA at the end so readers could conveniently find your content and learn more. Effectively promoting gated content like this should increase the number of people who register to access and help grow your prospects list more quickly.
Do Guest Posting
Guest posting is a process that involves creating and publishing relevant content on someone else’s blog. Inbound marketing teacher Ryan Hanley explains that the power of guest posting is three-fold: It earns you a valuable backlink to your website, a branded mention as well as a spike in website traffic. When you put these three factors together, it can be highly effective for generating leads. Not only are you bringing more exposure to your business, you’re leveraging the authority of the influencer’s website that you’re posting on. And many influencers are receptive to it. The Codeless team points out that 57 percent of business bloggers have published content from guest bloggers. The trick is to seek out the right sites that are relevant to the types of insurance you’re selling. For instance, Hanley suggests looking for a car dealership for auto insurance, a realtor for homeowners insurance and an accountant for business insurance. From there, you’ll want to contact the editor via email and pitch your ideas, Lee Ying at Access Ally. Of course it’s important to first check out their site, familiarize yourself with their style and review any submission guidelines they may have beforehand. You’ll also want to perform some extensive research to find the right topics to cover, David Brown at US Insurance Agents adds. This is crucial for getting the attention of editors and piquing their interest. Images by: stockbroker/©123RF Stock Photo, rawpixel/©123RF Stock Photo, langstrup/©123RF Stock Photo"
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